President, First Lady to Attend Service Friday for Stark’s Crew
President Reagan, who lauded one of the servicemen of the frigate Stark for making “the ultimate sacrifice,” will attend a memorial service Friday for the 37 sailors killed in the Iraqi attack on the frigate, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater announced Wednesday.
The President, accompanied by First Lady Nancy Reagan, will fly to Florida for the service at the Stark’s home port of Mayport, Fla., near Jacksonville, the spokesman said.
Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and Navy Secretary James H. Webb will also attend the ceremony.
Fitzwater also reported that Reagan had made his first telephone call to one of the families of the men killed in the incident. Reagan telephoned Robert and Renata DeAngelis of Dumont, N.J., whose son Christopher was killed during Sunday’s attack.
“Christopher and the other young men who lost their lives aboard the USS Stark made the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Reagan was quoted as telling the parents. “We will always remember those brave young men, and Nancy and I are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers.”
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced that the President has directed the Navy to pick up the cost of transportation to a memorial service for all family members of the sailors killed aboard the Stark.
The decision, announced by Pentagon spokesman Robert Sims, followed a newspaper report saying that the Navy had informed the DeAngelis family that assistance was available only for spouses.
Navy spokeswoman Lt. Kathy Owens said that the Navy’s normal practice in such instances is to provide transportation for only the primary next of kin.
Lt. Cmdr. Sam Falcona, a spokesman for the Navy, said the Navy has also been informed that at least one airline--Continental--had volunteered to fly family members to Florida for the ceremony, “and the Navy is accepting this kind offer.”
“It seemed like the right thing to do,” said Jim Brigance, a Continental spokesman and Naval Reserve member who came up with the idea. “They (Navy officials) were ecstatic about it.”
Continental is waiting for a complete list of the victims to begin contacting the families, he said.
“We are going to instruct our people to put them on,” Brigance said. “They cannot be denied boarding. We will get them there no matter what. It may be a little rough because of the Memorial Day holiday. But these people will not be denied. I know if I was a passenger, I would give up my seat to one of these people.”